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Kulfi inside a matka from India
Alternative namesQulfi, Khulfi
TypeIce cream
Place of originIndia[1]
Region or stateSouth Asia
Associated national cuisineIndia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan
Main ingredientsMilk
Kulfi stuffed mango
Kulfi with strawberry sauce
Pistachio, vanilla and rose flavoured kulfi

Kulfi or Qulfi (/kʊlf/) is a frozen dairy dessert originating in the Indian subcontinent in the 16th century. It is often described as "traditional Indian ice cream".[2][3] It is very much popular throughout present-day India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), and the Middle East, and widely available in restaurants serving cuisines from the Indian subcontinent around the world.

Kulfi is similar to ice cream in appearance and taste but denser and creamier.[2][4] It comes in various flavours. The more traditional ones are cream (malai), rose, mango, cardamom (elaichi), saffron (kesar or zafran), and pistachio. There are newer variations such as apple,pineapple,orange, strawberry, peanut, and avocado. Unlike ice cream, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert similar to traditional custard-based ice cream. Thus, it is sometimes considered a distinct category of frozen dairy-based dessert.[4] Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice cream.


Kulfi or Qulfi is a Hindi word derived from the Persian Qufli (قفلی) meaning "covered cup".[5][6] The dessert became famous in the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. The mixture of dense evaporated milk was already popular in the sweet dishes in the Indian subcontinent. During the Mughal period, this mixture was flavoured with pistachios and saffron, packed into metal cones and immersed in slurry ice, resulting in the invention of Kulfi. Ain-i-Akbari, a detailed record of the Mughal emperor Akbar's administration, mentions use of saltpeter for refrigeration as well as transportation of Himalayan ice to warmer areas.[7]


Authentic Kulfi is traditionally prepared by evaporating sweetened and flavoured milk via slow cooking, with almost continuous stirring to keep milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel where it might burn, until its volume is reduced by a half, thus thickening it, increasing its fat, protein, and lactose density. It has a distinctive taste due to caramelization of lactose and sugar during the lengthy cooking process. The semi-condensed mix is then frozen in tightly sealed moulds (often kulhars with their mouths sealed) that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi moulds, is placed in a matka or an earthen pot that provides insulation from the external heat and slows down the melting of ice. Kulfi prepared in this manner is hence called Matka Kulfi. Kulfi, thus prepared by fast freezing, also renders a unique smooth mouthfeel that is devoid of ice crystals.[citation needed]

An easier version is to boil the milk and add bread crumbs, mawa (dried whole milk), and sugar while stirring. The cream layer formed on the boiling milk is scooped initially and added in the end to thicken the milk. More recently Kulfi is prepared from evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy (double) cream.[8] Then sugar is added and the mixture is further boiled and cornstarch-water paste is added. This paste thickens the mixture, although it is boiled for an additional few minutes. Then flavourings, dried fruits, cardamom, etc. are added. The mixture is then cooled, put in moulds and frozen. If frozen in individual-portion custard bowls for service with a spoon, bowls are removed from the freezer 10–15 minutes before serving to allow for melting at the edges.[citation needed]

It is garnished with ground cardamom, saffron, or pistachio nuts. Kulfi is also served with falooda (vermicelli noodles made from starch). In some places, people make it at home and make their own flavors.[citation needed]

In India, kulfi is sold by vendors called kulfiwalas, who keep the kulfi frozen by placing the moulds inside a large earthenware pot called a matka, filled with ice and salt. It is the traditional sweet of the Indian subcontinent.[citation needed]

Kulfi is a popular food available anywhere, especially in tourist locations such as Mumbai, at places like the Gateway of India and the Elephanta Caves.[9]


  1. ^ Camellia Panjabi (1995). The Great Curries of India. Simon and Schuster. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-0-684-80383-8.
  2. ^ a b Caroline Liddell, Robin Weir (15 July 1996), Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights, Macmillan, 1996, ISBN 978-0-312-14343-5, ... Kulfi is the traditional Indian ice cream and has a strongly characteristic cooked-milk flavour and dense icy texture. ... The basis of making kulfi is to reduce a large volume of milk down to a very small concentrated amount ...
  3. ^ Lulu Grimes (2009), Cook's Book of Everything, Murdoch Books, 2009, ISBN 978-1-74196-033-4, ... This simple, elegant ice cream is made by boiling milk until it reduces and condenses, then flavouring it with ingredients such as cardamom and pistachio nuts or almonds. Kulfi is traditionally set in cone-shaped ...
  4. ^ a b Matthew Kenney (September 2009), Entertaining in the Raw, Gibbs Smith, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4236-0208-8, ... Kulfi is an Indian-style ice cream that is richer and creamier than regular ice cream, due to the lack of air that is whipped into traditional ice cream to make it lighter. The milk, traditionally from buffalo ...
  5. ^ "kulfi| Definition of kulfi in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  6. ^ Mangrio, Riaz Ahmed (22 June 2016). The Morphology of Loanwords in Urdu: The Persian, Arabic and English Strands. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 9781443896634.
  7. ^ Michael Krondl (2011). Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. Chicago Review Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-55652-954-2.
  8. ^ BBC kulfi recipe
  9. ^ Madhu Gadia (2000). New Indian Home Cooking: More Than 100 Delicious Nutritional, and Easy Low ... p. 223. ISBN 1-55788-343-2.